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Warrior Wednesday: David McCluskey …no more cancer hooks

This week’s Wednesday Warrior is David McCluskey. Dave has hosted two Get Your Rear in Gear events in Des Moines and modeled in the Colon Club Colondar in 2009. For more information about David, go to


Cancer Had It’s Hooks in Me

I feel like I’ve been through a war this year.  I’ve been beaten down, broken, but never out of the fight.  In fact, I’m rising out of the ashes, I’m pissed, and I’m coming out swinging!

I’m David McCluskey, and I’m a cancer survivor.  Those from my hometown in Grinnell, IA, know me as David Dimit, which is confusing for some, but it need not be.  Think of it this way, I have the dual honor of carrying on my grandparent’s last name, (Wayne, who died of Lung Cancer in 1998, and Phyllis McCluskey, who died of Emphysema in 1993), and appreciate the love, adoption, and acceptance of the entire Dimit family, not just once in my life, but twice.  If you still find this confusing, get over it, I could never be more blessed.

How did you know?

The first question I always get is, “How did you know?”  I didn’t.  But, I did listen to my body telling me something wasn’t right.  I was at a trade show in Las Vegas in October of 2006, when I noticed a little bit of blood in my stools, not much, but it concerned me a little, blood is blood, right?

When I started paying attention, I realized that I had been experiencing some irregularity, (constipation and diarrhea essentially), but didn’t think much of it.  I am in outside sales, so I travel a lot, didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise, drank a little, and was a smoker.  So, what do you do?  Mix in a little Raisin Bran, try to stop smoking, and go make that next sale.  I had to keep moving, I have a family to help support.

Someone Saved My Life

Family_PicBut, things persisted.  I finally decided on New Year’s Eve that  to go see my doctor, Jeffrey Schoon, DO.  I guess I was just tired of feeling tired, and something just wasn’t right.  After meeting with Dr. Schoon, we were both pretty confident there was nothing to be concerned about, “You’re pretty young,” he said, “Probably just a hemorrhoid, but why don’t we schedule a colonoscopy, just to be sure?”  I agreed, and we scheduled it for February 15th, 2007.  Dr. Schoon saved my life that day.

February 15th, 2007, is the day that changed my life forever.  It is the day of my colonoscopy and cancer diagnosis, (Jeffrey Stahl, MD),  and my world was turned upside down.  It was a whirlwind day, quite a blur actually.  I remember waking up from my colonoscopy, with my wife, her dad and mom, (Bob &  Nonie Doty), and sister, (Carla Reindel), looking at me with the most concerned, red, puffy eyes.  Not a good sign that all is well.

Family is the Foundation

My beautiful wife, Winonah, broke the news to me that I had cancer.  I’m so glad that I heard it from her.  I know she was shaken to the core, but she was so strong and reassuring.  Quite honestly, she is the strongest person I know.  She gets it from her family.  The strength of the Doty Family is unbelievable.  We started to cope immediately as we were off to see Sue Beckwith, MD, for a surgical consultation.

Winonah and Bob took me to see Dr. Beckwith, who specializes in Colorectal Surgery.  Again, a whirlwind and a blur, and the next thing we know I’m scheduled for surgery the next day.  Our thought, “Let’s get this thing out of me, NOW!!!”  Certainly a quick decision, but in retrospect, I’m glad we just pulled the trigger.  No better time than the present to take a step forward.

My brother, Greg, arrived early the morning of my surgery, He drove straight through the night from Chicago to be by my side.  There is nothing I can say that could possibly relay how important Greg is in my life.  He is a rock, and I would be lost without him.  The love and support of his wife, Chris, the Dimit, Doty, Reindel, Solik, Cantrell, and entire Saracco Family has been overwhelming.  My brother and I have been blessed with great family and friends.  Thank you to everyone for your support!!!!

Now the Fun Begins

I really don’t know how to describe what the following 9 months brought me.  The colon resection surgery, (Sue Beckwith, MD), was off the pain scale, followed by chemotherapy & radiation, (John Martens, MD), genetic testing, (Pati Berger, RN), a hernia repair, (Mike Mohan, MD), and more chemotherapy, (Robert Behrens, MD).  If there is a side affect, I think I’ve had it.  We are finished with the chemotherapy, and ready to get on with our lives after treatment.  It was very difficult, to say the least, but is now a distant memory.

My entire medical team has been unbelievable!  I can’t begin to thank everyone who has been involved with my health care.  Our very dear friend Denise Albert, (Registered Dietician, University of Iowa) saved my life with her advice.  I was withering away to nothing, until she got involved with my care and turned things around.  She is so talented, and a great friend.  Valerie Ripperger, (massage therapist) helped me get on the road to recovery physically.  She is a healer, and was a good friend with an attentive ear.  Everyone at Mercy Therapeutic Radiology Associates, Medical Oncology and Hematology Associates, (especially Ramona!), Iowa Methodist Medical Center, and Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines has been a truly committed team.  Thank you for all you do!

New Friends and “The Rally”

Doc-1024x768I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a special couple who came into our lives since our diagnosis, and really made a difference during this difficult time, Don and Jennifer Slagle.  Don and I have become good friends, and I would have felt so alone without him.  It was amazing to share such a difficult journey with him.  I feel like we will always have a special connection.  I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone, but being able to share it with someone like Don was truly a blessing.

A special thank you to Carol Frazell.  Carol was an angel of light walking into our lives during a very dark time.  Thank you so much, Carol, you truly made a difference in our lives, and I know many others.  One last thank you to Kim Johnson for organizing the Rally Against Cancer.  We wouldn’t have Carol without Kim.  What a wonderful world we live in.  We are looking forward to giving back!

I can’t even begin to tell you how much my wife, Winonah, has meant to me throughout this very difficult time.  She has been my foundation, and is my strength.  There is no way, I mean NO WAY, I could’ve made it without her.  She is the light of my life, and I will honor and love her all the days of my life.

We are moving forward, and getting stronger every day.

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